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Friday, March 11, 2011


Mostly I feel so discouraged about the aggressive attempt by Scott Walker, the new Wisconsin governor, to take advantage of the financial crisis to eliminate collective bargaining.  As always, I think about "What's the Matter with Kansas" and the very articulate presentation of working class voters being convinced to vote against their own best interests.  This joke sums it up so succinctly:

A public employee, a member of the Tea Party, and a CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table there is a plate with a dozen cookies on it.

The CEO takes 11 cookies, looks at the Tea Partier and says, "Look out for that union guy - he wants a piece of your cookie."

I've heard lots of people in round tables on CNN and MSNBC note how odd it is to suggest that government workers are at the root of the current financial situation, and I always appreciate when they say so.  But the prevailing attitude seems to be that these lazy, greedy, undeserving people are stealing our tax money.  It's such a Big Lie.

Of course, we were outraged when Enron's collapse lead to the evaporation of pensions owed to long-time employees, but now, as tax payers, we seem willing to do the same - reduce pensions promised to workers, often in arrangements made decades ago. 

How did we get to the point that we begrudge teachers and street sweepers pensions and health insurance.  We act like we don't have these same benefits, but many middle class people do.  And if they don't have them, they certainly want them.  But we're furious that anyone has them?  And yet we tolerate bankers who paid themselves huge bonuses after the tax payers had to bail out their banks, which they had run into the ground with poor decisions and poor risk management. 

I happened to catch Jon Stewart when he pointed out the inconsistency in his inimitable way - he showed 2 videos of a Fox News commentator, criticizing public workers (recently) and last year, rationalizing bonuses paid to Wall Street workers because they were based on contractual obligations that predated the crisis.  But unfortunately, though excrutiatingly obvious, this juxtaposition doesn't appear to have captured the general public's attention.

Though polls show that the vast majority of people do not want to eliminate collective bargaining.  And Walker has clearly over-reached his mandate.  And his poll numbers are way down.  But the public has a short memory, and it may not ultimately impact his re-election chances at all.

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